November 04, 2022

Going Pro

David D. Lawrence Jr., MD, FACR

David D. Lawrence Jr., MD, FACR riding a time trial bicycle

I became an avid cyclist about 25 years ago with my wife on couples cycling vacations. We started with one of my partners and his wife, and after that, he and I did an MS 150 ride — my first "big ride."

From there, I was hooked and began doing early morning spin classes at my club, solo weekend rides and charity rides whenever I could.

At one of the spin classes, I met another rider whom I’d seen on the road before, and he invited me along on one of his group rides. Several of the riders in the group were getting into masters-level racing (open to athletes 35 years or older), and one of them put a bug in my ear that I would be good at time trial racing.

Over the next couple of years, I competed in the Texas State Time Trial Championship with fair results and decided to up my game with coaching and cycling camps. In 2007, I told my coach that I wanted to win a state championship within five years. After some structured training that year, I won a gold medal in the individual time trials.

A few years later, I went bigger and decided to try the national championships, which was an entirely new level. The first effort I was middle of the pack and the subsequent two years, I was in the top ten but never on the podium. While the state races were still going OK — one more individual gold and a few team golds with a smattering of individual and team silvers and bronzes — I was starting to plateau.

Over a period of about 10 years, several of my cycling buddies in the oil and gas industry retired (or were laid off) due to the economic downturn. All of a sudden, we noticed a new phenomenon — they were getting skinnier and stronger on the bikes! Our group leader coined the phrase "They've gone pro" (i.e., they now had much more time to spend riding). I also began to notice the same phenomenon in my age group at nationals. When I inquired as to the reason for their success, the answer was frequently, "Oh, I retired, and I'm on my bike a lot."

Until a couple of years ago, I had to squeeze all my cycling between full-time IR work and family. I did interval training before work two to three days per week (starting around 3–4am), and three- to four-hour rides Saturday and Sunday when not working (I was on call every third weekend). Consequently, my results in the states and national races went from top 10 to middle of the pack because of the "pros".

At last, I went "pro" myself! After retiring from IR and doing elective remote DR (somewhat forced by an economic downturn in the practice due to COVID), I started training more consistently, changing my diet and losing weight. The medals started coming back and my performance at the camps began to impress my usually stronger buddies. In spite of getting older, my LT/VO2 max testing remained stable and I began to achieve personal records in time trialing (although so were my competitors!).

Last year I spent quite a bit of time in summer training at altitude in Colorado, and at nationals I made the podium with a silver medal (missed the gold by nine seconds!). In late spring, I won two more golds in the state individual and team time trials (after training at altitude).

In early August this year, I raced at nationals again — going for gold. But my competitors had also upped their games, so I held onto the silver.

Training for gold next year starts now!